Jam Junkies of Tasmania

It takes an extra week for a box with two jars of jam to get through Tasmanian customs.

Our friends Fran and Steve — of our sister farmlet, Serendipity Farm, on the other side of the planet — lay the delay onto the fear of the poppy and heroin trade, but what the agents don’t know is how euphoric and addicting Peach Rhubarb jam can be.  Fran just emailed me an urgent, desperate plea for the recipe.

Hi Christi,

Could I PLEASE (pretty please…kissy kissy…) have your recipe for rhubarb and peach jam. I don’t think that we could live without it on Serendipity Farm and as the precious jar dwindles alarmingly (Steve has been ladling it onto his morning toast…) I can see that precious elixir escaping our adoring clutches. I would ask you for your other jam recipe but we don’t actually have huckleberries in Australia and I have no idea what we would use to substitute? Love love LOVE that jam! A little taste of pure Olalla sunshine in every single bite…you should sell it! Feel free to use my adoration as endorsement 🙂

Love Fran

P.S. pretty pretty pretty pretty please?… (I am starting to sound like a heroin addict so I might just stop there! 😉

Fran’s birthday jam was 18 days total in transit, but just getting it there still qualifies as a miracle in my book, as do my almost instantaneous daily cyber messages to the Down Under.  The connection is as clear and strong as our mutual vision of taking back our food production and lives.  I decide to make a batch — about 6 pints — and take pictures of the process to email her.

The Bearded One is going to the feed store anyway, so he agrees to stop at the fruit stand for a box of Eastern Washington peaches. He leaves and I head out to the garden for the rhubarb, which I fertilized with a mild 5-5-5 organic fertilizer for the first time this year and am glad I did.  The stalks are thick and pink.  I cut 6 stalks, which will make 2 cups of puree.

I notice the corn, which finally has visible ears after struggling mightily to get going in our cool wet climate.  The pumpkins are taking off now, too, and I see several little pumpkins forming.  I started the corn, pumpkins and beans back in May in the hoop house with seeds from Territorial Seed, the Oregon company started by Steve Solomon, who now, unbelievably, is Fran’s neighbor in Tasmania.

Back in the kitchen, I assemble my jamming equipment on the counter just the way I like it and start to puree the rhubarb.

I stick the recipe on the wall with tape.  It’s the same recipe no matter what fruit I use.

  • 8 cups mashed fruit
  • 8 T. lemon juice
  • 5 t. calcium water (which is a 1t calcium powder per 1/2 cup water mix)
  • 4 cups sugar PLUS more sugar to taste after it boils
  • 5-6 t. Pomona’s Universal Pectin powder

This week marks the one year anniversary of Jamageddon, when I had to throw out 60 jars of strawberry rhubarb jam because the seals failed.  I made the mistake of trying to solve fruit float by turning the jars upside down, and even though the seals were fine at first, particles had compromised the still-warm seals.

The Bearded One returns with the peaches and I start peeling and mashing —

— while he unloads the hay, dry cob, and cracked corn into the trailer.  I hear the tractor start as I mix 6 cups of mashed peaches (I used 10 peaches), 2 cups of pureed rhubarb, 8 T. lemon juice and 5 t. calcium water in my 4 qt. pot and start it heating.

On the other burner sits the big 21-qt. canning pot full of boiling water and 7 pint jars.

I measure 4 cups of sugar and mix in 5-1/2 t. pectin powder.  I buy Pomona’s pectin in bulk and it is much cheaper that way.  It also takes a lot less sugar to jell. When the fruit starts to boil, I dump in the sugar/pectin and stir.

I keep stirring until it comes to a boil again, and then I do a woo-woo thing.  I ask the Deva of Jam — the nature intelligence or spirit — how much more sugar this particular jam needs.  A half cup?  A full cup?  A cup and a half?  I ask, muscle testing for a yes, which means my left thumb and pinky stay strongly together when I try to separate them.

This is called applied kinesiology, it’s a feedback mechanism using the electrical field in our bodies, and it’s why pendulums work for this, too.

Above is a No.  Below is a Yes.

You can also guess how much more sugar by how sweet the fruit is to start with.  There’s no wrong answer.  Less sugar means a more tart flavor, which is how the Bearded One likes it.

I stir the additional sugar in — in this case, one more cup — bring the jam to a boil and let it boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  If foam starts to form on the top, I add a tablespoon of butter and keep stirring.

Then I remove it from the heat and stir it some more, at least five minutes, letting it cool down a bit.  This helps keep the fruit suspended in the thickening jam and avoids fruit float.  Pureeing the rhubarb is the other trick I’ve learned to battle fruit float.

Finally I ladle the jam into the hot jars, stir out the air bubbles, and secure a hot lid on with a threaded band.

I boil the jars in the covered canner for 10 minutes, then remove the canner from the heat and uncover it and let the jars sit for 5 more minutes in the hot water before removing them to the counter to cool and seal.  The lids make a “pop” when they seal, a few minutes to a half hour later, but don’t move the jars for hours.

At this point, I wipe my brow and step out on the deck for some fresh air.  The Bearded One is still up at the barn, prepping the meat bird coops for the 30 baby Cornish chicks we’re getting tomorrow.  He yells down something I miss, and I cup my hand behind my ear.

“Blood!” he hollers down to me.  He is actually, inexplicably, smiling.

I am horrified.  Has a chicken died?  I try to communicate my distress, my questions, across the vast distance between us.

“Puddles!” he shouts.  “Drained all the way down the trail!”

He’s talking some kind of short-hand. “What died?!” I shout back.  “Blood?”

He laughs loud, then forms a super hard “F” consonant and shouts back, “FLOOD!  FLOOD! The goats turned the water on!”

I laugh.  Communication is easier with Tasmania

*   *   *

A Big Thank You to Momma Goose for helping us with our successful first round of 26 meat birds!  We harvested the last two on Friday, August 24.  They were 10-1/2 weeks old and estimated at 7-8 pounds each.  Momma Goose’s friend Dana from Louisiana was here helping, but she’s back in the stormy south now, so nice to meet you, Dana, thanks for the help and hang in there!


11 responses to “Jam Junkies of Tasmania

  1. You have a gift for making homely tasks droll. Not everyone can do that.

  2. Where is the LOVE button?!
    I feel like I have just been painted by Picasso! The Bearded One has drawn me! (I hope that’s me and not Steve because every woman deserves her 15 seconds of fame 😉 ). I am furiously scribbling down the recipe because if I save it in my “Recipes” folder it may never be seen again. Instant gratification needs a recipe tucked carefully into my little precious recipe book along with all of those recipes that mum can’t give me again because I was too careless to put them “somewhere safe”. Interesting that you are talking about Pomona’s pectin as I just found a heap of vegan cheeses that use it to set them rather than agar-agar or weird gums that start with an “X”. As I am going to have to buy it now because of my open addiction (cheers for outing me Christi! ;)) to that heavenly elixir, I may as well make some cheez at the same time (multi tasking ;)).

    I think its something to do with the smaller amount of sugar that makes this jam heavenly. Its got the perfect balance between flavour of fruit and sour/sweet going on. I am not a sweet person (aww) and am into savoury things but this jam grabbed me the instant I tasted it. Make it people…don’t ask questions… just make it! Don’t say that you weren’t warned. Your life, without this jam, is a shallow husk of the life that you would be living WITH this jam…don’t even get me started on the Raspberry, rhubarb, cherry, huckleberry! Thats a whole new addiction that I am going to have to conquer! (Thank goodness Earl can’t get to taps or he would flood the place too!)

    • The drawing is of you, Fran! You are so cute. I wanted to turn the drawing so Australia was on top, but the Bearded One aka Editor ‘n Cheep said that’s not how he drew it. Artists! How cool that you can use Pomona Pectin with your cheesing. It’s MUCH cheaper than buying those individual boxes of pectin, AND you really don’t have to use sugar at all with it, but jam needs some sugar in my humble opinion. But less is truly better. Thanks for inspiring me, and letting me quote your email in it’s wonderful entirety. 🙂

      • Your post was lovely and the bearded one is right to maintain his artistic temperment…otherwise…how would people know that he was artistic?! It’s part of the package. Tell him that Steve has been prompted to doodle of late…his doodles are somewhat cubist in nature but he is sure that he could give a cuboidal picture a go…the bearded one is apparently running a mental “males only” art school across the globe! (now all you have to do is make it pay and you are laughing! 🙂 ). The inspiration is all yours Christi and came from that masterpiece you call “jam”…I am down to my last 2 breakfast spoons and Steve has magnanimously allowed me to scrape the bottom of the jar onto my porridge. Gallantry is NOT dead 😉

      • The Bearded One says, “I didn’t know she was married to a Cuban.” LOL Cheers to Steve and his drawing…scan them for your blog!:)

  3. Thanks for the jam recipe, how are you getting ripe rhubarb and ripe peaches at the same time? My mind says rhubarb=spring and peaches=summer? I visited the local cannery today to check it out and boy was I impressed! Amazing equipment on a huge scale and a very interesting woman to talk to. I love to can and was very pleased with the visit!

    • Good question about the seasonal weirdness with rhubarb and peaches, Liz! Here in the greater Seattle area, we’ve had just 3 days that reached 90 this summer. It’s very cool so the rhubarb just keeps coming. And I BUY the peaches, which grow beautifully in Eastern Washington on the other side of the mountains. Some peaches do grow here, but we’ve never been able to do it. But rhubarb and almost any berry loves it here. I’m still harvesting strawberries, too! Good luck with your canning. It’s that time of year!

  4. Steve says that humans are easy to “cube” but dogs…they tend to look more like angry bumblebee pigs than dogs…he has some practicins to do lucy 😉

  5. Christine Widman

    Yes. Your yummy jam. This time I have been topping my morning toast with the raspberry rhubarb. Wowsie.
    LOVE those funky goats of yours.

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